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With the advancement in technology over the years, we now live in a world that is both enriched and burdened by computers and gadgets. The domination of technology in our everyday lives highlights the importance of digital literacy not just for adults but also children. The digital world offers enormous benefits and advantages to everyone, however, without proper use and understanding of technology, the digital world can be overwhelming, and even dangerous.
Teaching kids digital literacy skills is very important. Kids need to be able to understand the technology that they use so they can use it safely and effectively. Digital literacy is not just about knowing how to take a selfie or update facebook. Digital literacy means understanding technology and using it appropriately.
Moreover, whether kids are in online school, distance learning, or traditional brick-and-mortar school, it is expected that children have mastered all things related to computers. After all, most teens and preteens spend several hours a day on digital screens.
Basic Computer Skills for Kids to Master
1. Typing Skills
When we think of essential computer skills for our children, typing isn’t something that is often discussed. But that really shouldn’t be the case, as learning to type is one of the most valuable skills that a child should learn.
It can not only help them with their school work but can also set them up with an advantage in later life when it comes to exploring job opportunities. Many jobs now require quick typing skills, but with advances in technology that’s set to become even more important.
Here are few merits of knowledge of typing for kids:
- Typing helps kids work more efficiently: Children who learn to type can work far quicker as they won’t have to look down at their fingers as they look for the correct characters to press. Whether they are working on a school assignment or with a home project, they will be able to focus purely on getting their ideas out onto the screen, rather than wasting energy and time trying to find that elusive letter on the keyboard.
- Typing can improve English language skills: Typing engages various cognitive aspects of a child’s brain as it’s a very demanding motor activity. This results in the child being a lot more focused and conscious of what they are typing, as they will want to write the words out correctly. With this improved level of focus and engagement, it can help the child to improve their written English skills and also their spelling.
- Typing gives kids an advantage in education: And naturally, having that increased speed can lead to advantages for children in school, plus throughout their academic life up until they leave college or university. If your child can produce computer written work and tasks at more than twice the speed of a type trained child, it stands to reason that it could help them to get ahead. In secondary education and beyond, the majority of assignments and essays are expected to be typed. By learning to type, children could shave hundreds of hours off the time they spend producing their work. If they learn at a young age, then they will reap the benefits as they progress through the education system.
- Typing gives kids an advantage in their future career: For many years now, jobs that require keyboard and typing skills have not simply been limited to administrative roles. With advances in technology, the rise of robotics, and an ever-changing job’s market, the ability to type is going to become even more important for future careers. Even today, given the prevalence that computers have in the modern workplace, a typing speed of 50 words a minute is generally seen as the bare minimum employees should be able to achieve in order to be viewed as efficient.
- Typing quickly and efficiently saves you time: Just by doubling your typing speed from 25 words to 50 words per minute, you can effectively half how long it will take you to perform a written task. For children that could mean that they get homework and assignments completed a lot quicker, meaning that they aren’t sat in front of a computer screen for long periods of time.
2. Using Web Browsers
Web browsers are as important as the first printing presses because they make it possible for anyone to share and interact with knowledge and data. No matter which web browser kids use, they should learn the basics of browsing the Web. Here are the important concepts that all children should know about the web browsers:
- URLs and Address Bar: Each website has a unique address, called a URL (short for Uniform Resource Locator). It’s like a street address that tells your browser where to go on the Internet. When you type a URL into the browser’s address bar and press Enter on your keyboard, the browser will load the page associated with that URL.
- Links: Whenever you see a word or phrase on a website that’s blue or underlined in blue, it’s probably a hyperlink, or link for short. You might already know how links work, even if you’ve never thought about them much before. Links are used to navigate the Web. When you click a link, it will usually take you to a different webpage. You may also notice that your cursor changes into a hand icon whenever you hover over a link.
- Navigation Buttons: The Back and Forward buttons allow you to move through websites you’ve recently viewed. You can also click and hold either button to see your recent history.The Refresh button will reload the current page. If a website stops working, try using the Refresh button.
- Tabbed Browsing: Many browsers allow you to open links in a new tab. You can open as many links as you want, and they’ll stay in the same browser window instead of cluttering your screen with multiple windows. To open a link in a new tab, right-click the link and select Open link in the new tab (the exact wording may vary from browser to browser).
- Bookmarks and History: If you find a website you want to view later, it can be hard to memorize the exact web address. Bookmarks, also known as favorites, are a great way to save and organize specific websites so you can revisit them again and again. Simply locate and select the Star icon to bookmark the current website. Your browser will also keep a history of every site you visit. This is another good way to find a site you visited previously. To view your history, open your browser settings—usually by clicking the icon in the upper-right corner—and select History.
- Downloading Files: Links don’t always go to another website. In some cases, they point to a file that can be downloaded, or saved, to your computer.If you click a link to a file, it may download automatically, but sometimes it just opens within your browser instead of downloading. To prevent it from opening in the browser, you can right-click the link and select Save link as (different browsers may use slightly different wording, like Save target as).
- Saving Images: Sometimes you may want to save an image from a website to your computer. To do this, right-click the image and select Save image as (or Save picture as).
- Plug-Ins: Plug-ins are small applications that allow you to view certain types of content within your web browser. For example, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight are sometimes used to play videos, while Adobe Reader is used to view PDF files. If you don’t have the correct plug-in for a website, your browser will usually provide a link to download it. There may also be times when you need to update your plug-ins.
3. Working With Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office is the most widely used tool for sharing/presenting professional information by a considerable number of companies in the world. The benefits of Microsoft Office to business productivity is so important that all computer-based professionals today are very familiar with Office. It is used at home, schools and offices daily for organizing, handling and presenting data and information and offers programs that can be used both in a web browser and on a desktop.
Kids must be able to use the most popular computer programs available for the work they’ll do on their computer. Your child should know their way around Microsoft Office, a suite of computer programs used throughout the academic and professional worlds. It includes:
- Microsoft Word. Perhaps the most popular word processing and document creator program. Your student should be able to:
- Create, format, save, and edit documents in Word
- Add tables and graphics to documents
- Adjust margins and spacing
- Check word counts
- Create headers and footers
- Use track changes
- Excel. In this spreadsheet program, your high school student should know how to organize information in charts and graphs, write formulas, sort and filter data, and use cell references.
- PowerPoint. Mastery of this slide program will allow students to make effective presentations as part of reports for school and in their future workplaces. A high school student should be able to create basic presentations with text, pictures, and objects.
Here are six important reasons why Office is an essential tool for kids today:
- Microsoft Office is used by 90% of Companies Worldwide: Statistically, this means that over 1.2 billion people and most businesses are currently using Microsoft Office. That’s nearly 20% of the world’s population and that many people can’t be wrong. Recent statistics have shown that the percentage of enterprises with at least 100 users increased from 87% to 91%, and usage within enterprises grew over 320%.
- Employment: In the current job market, knowledge of Microsoft Office tools is essential as it helps to make your mark.
- Presentations, word files, excel sheets, working with databases – are all a part of daily tasks for most of us. When you have an in-depth knowledge of MS Office, it means you can make better presentations, use more features in Word, Excel or Access and thus make your mark on work in your style. This puts you ahead compared to your peers and thus boosts more confidence in you, too.
- Cloud Service: Microsoft very well knows that the cloud is the future. Office 365 is a remarkable service in this domain. Office 365 is a cloud-based service: while a user has access to the Internet, he/she can access Office 365 services online.Some of the main benefits of working in the cloud are:
- Cost-saving – Easy access to your company’s data will save money and time once you’re on the cloud.
- Mobility – Mobile access to corporate data via smartphones and devices is possible with cloud computing, which is a great way to make sure your employees are never left out of the loop.
- Disaster recovery – Quick data recovery for all kinds of emergency scenarios, from natural disasters to power outages is provided for by cloud-based services.
- Different Features and Support: Microsoft delivers all office tools with more and better features with every new release. There is extensive and professional support available 24/7 for Office, as well as countless online resources providing tutorials and tips for using MS Office tools.
- Trust and Reliability: The reason companies and users continue to use Office today is due to the trust which Microsoft has built up over the years. Office delivers great utility and advanced features with every new release, so people don’t need to look at any other tool. Microsoft has justified the fact that trust goes a long way.
- Highly User-Friendly Interface and Features: Microsoft Office is well known for its clean and straightforward user interface, which is easy to use and understand. The pages are extremely user friendly, and you can easily navigate through them. The menu items explain and guide you clearly to execute your tasks effectively and effortlessly.
4. File Maintenance and Organization
Technology puts the “virtual” in “virtual school,” making the computer your student’s most important learning tool. In fact, a computer can be considered a learning space, just like the virtual classroom. Knowing how to create and save work on a computer is essential, but very quickly the prolific computer user will realize they need a system for how and where they store their work.
Kids need to know how to:
- Create and label folders
- Understand that each folder may hold individual files or additional folders with subfolders within them
- Understand file suffixes, e.g., that a file ending in .docx will open in Microsoft Word, and .xls will open in Microsoft Excel
- Understand the use of external drives, such as flash and thumb drives
- Be familiar with online and cloud file storage, and how to transfer and share files, such as via Dropbox, Microsoft’s OneDrive, and Google Drive
Kids should all know how a computer can be organized and maintained to boost the computer’s—and thereby the student’s—long-term performance. Use the checklist below to make sure you cover everything.
- Organize Your School files: Proper organization helps the computer run more efficiently and makes it easier for you to find things.
- Your “My Documents” folder is organized using a simple hierarchy of sub-folders for each subject.
- All files follow a consistent naming structure, including important information such as the subject, date, and name of the assignment. For example, “9-25-13_Math_Fractions Homework.”
- All files are in the correct place.
- Clean Your Desktop: Removing clutter from your desktop can make you feel better and also make important shortcuts and documents stand out.
- There are no unused or unnecessary shortcuts.
- There are shortcuts for frequently accessed folders.
- There are no files on your desktop.
- Change Your Passwords to Enhance Your Security: This is especially important for your major online accounts.
- Your passwords are longer than six characters and include both numbers and letters.
- Your passwords are backed up in a secure place.
- Free Up Space: This can make your computer faster and more efficient. It can be achieved in following ways:
- They checked for and uninstalled unneeded programs within the Control Panel.
- They took a look in “My Computer” to make sure at least 15% of your hard drive space is free, which helps your computer run more smoothly.
- They checked to see whether any unimportant programs start automatically when your computer turns on. You can do this by typing “msconfig” (without the quotation marks) into the search box of the Start menu and hitting Enter, then clicking the Startup tab in the System Configuration box that appears.
- They ran a disk defragment, allowing your hard drive to place all saved data together to make it easier to access.
- Check Your Computer Security: Kids should have a free antivirus program downloaded on your computer.
- Their antivirus software is up-to-date.
- They ran a scan and dealt with any security threats it detected.
- If they noticed any signs of malware on your computer, technology support services should be contacted. Another option is to run a program to remove any malware.
- Backup Your Data: Prevent yourself from losing important documents.
- You save copies of your files to a flash drive, to an external hard drive, or in a form of cloud storage.
- Clean Your Computer: Technology accumulates dust, grime, fingerprints, and more, so don’t forget to clean it often.
- You used a mild disinfectant on the keyboard and mouse without getting either wet.
- You used a can of compressed air to blow the dust out of your keyboard.
- You gently wiped the dust off of the monitor with a dry cloth or a cloth with screen cleaner.
5. Email Etiquette
Many kids enter upper elementary or middle school knowing how to text, how to quickly find information on Google, and even how to make their own YouTube videos. But a surprising number of students have never used email. It simply isn’t a preferred method of communication among today’s youth.
As a parent/teacher, we have a great opportunity to introduce students to email. We may be their first exposure to this form of communication, so it’s important that we take the time to teach some really big lessons. We want our students to be good communicators, and it’s crucial that they learn the ins and outs of email correspondence. This will be a much needed skill as students will need it in high school (to contact their teachers), as well as in college and the workforce.
These are some of the important points that kids should keep in mind while writing emails:
- Email is More Formal Than Texting: While it is not as formal as a handwritten letter, email communication is more formal than a text, especially while emailing teachers. For that reason, always begin an email with a greeting and end with a closing.
- Omit Abbreviations, Slang and Emojis and Use Proper Grammar: Words like BTW or LMK are not appropriate for emailing teachers and elders. Spell out every word and use proper grammar, including using proper capitalization and punctuation.
- Be Polite yet Succinct: Tone can get lost in email communication so be cautious on the side of being courteous. Also, avoid wordy emails. Everyone appreciates emails that are to the point. If this is not possible, setting up a phone call is a better option.
- Don’t Forget a Subject Line: This sums up what the email is about. “Math Test on 20th Feb” or “Questions on Geometry Assignment” helps the recipient start through her/his inbox and replay in a timely manner.
- Proofread Before Sending: Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Read over an email (aloud if it helps) before you hit send to make sure it sounds respectful. If possible, it’s better to send an email from your computer instead of a cell phone where it’s easier to spot mistakes.
- Never Send an Email You Don’t Want Everyone to See: This goes for any electronic communication. Mistakes happen. People get copied on the wrong emails or the recipient might accidentally forwarded to the wrong person. So, always ask yourself before sending if you would be embarrassed if someone other than the recipient saw the email.
- Always Reply: And in a timely manner. Ideally the same day. Even if a teacher doesn’t ask any specific question, reply so that they know you received and read the email. A simple “Thank you” is great! If you don’t reply in a timely manner, send a quick apology as soon as you realize.
6. Using Internet for Research
Your school papers, assignments, and presentations require research that today typically includes use of the internet, as well as textbooks, other publications, and subject matter experts. The skills necessary to navigate the internet well enough to perform research for online high school courses include:
- Conducting an effective search with a search engine (e.g., Google, Bing, Yahoo) using advanced search commands
- Evaluating web resources for authority, currency, purpose, and content
- Identifying legitimate resources
- Fact-checking information
- Understanding copyrights, licenses, and plagiarism in a digital environment and how to cite online sources in papers.
7. Basic Computer Troubleshooting
Anyone who uses a computer on a regular basis needs to understand the basics of how computers work and what to do when something goes wrong.
When computer problems arise, your high schooler should know to:
- Write down each step taken to correct the problem
- Check to make sure that all cables are properly connected, all plugs are in, and power strips are on
- Write down as much information as possible about error messages the computer provides, and look them up online (on another device) for more information
- Reboot; when all else fails, try restarting the program and/or the computer
8. Online Privacy, Security, and Safety Skills
During school closures, thousands of pupils are stuck at home and use the internet to attend their online classes and keep in touch with their classmates and friends. “The moment a child owns a mobile phone,” says Simon Leggett, Research Director of ChildWise, “it can be a challenge to monitor what your child is accessing online because it’s such a private technology that most keep, literally, close to their chest.”
Setting blanket restrictions on your children’s internet usage — while it sounds tempting — can prevent them from developing skills and increasing critical learning opportunities. Kids can learn many things with the internet, provided they use it with extra care. Below are some of the internet dangers that students face:
- Cyber Predators
As a parent, you can apply Internet safety rules for your kids:
- Use Parental-Control software
- Manage kids computer use
- Get involved in your children’s online activities